Knowing how to be calm when dealing with difficult people can be a huge advantage.
Sometimes, it can be tempting to respond in the same manner when someone is being difficult, but that very rarely leads to a mutually beneficial outcome.
It’s valuable to know that when someone is being difficult, most times, they may not be aware that they’re coming across as being difficult. If we have ways to handle difficult people, we can turnaround a difficult situation and still get a positive outcome.
At a personal development training program I once attended, during one of the sessions, the facilitator was explaining a concept and leading an open discussion about the concept with the participants. Everyone were sitting on the floor in an open space, with the facilitator walking around managing the discussions.
One participant asked a question, which the facilitator answered, and they had a short dialogue, that would have lasted less than thirty-seconds. Something the participant said may have been misheard or misinterpreted by the facilitator and suddenly out of the blue, the participant screamed, “That’s not what I said!”
That certainly got everyone’s attention. The tension was building and I remember thinking at that time, “How would I handle a situation like this?”
What the facilitator did in that moment I thought was best thing he could have done to deal with the situation.
Without saying a word, he calmly walked to the front of room and drank a glass of water. He then walked back to the participant and said, “Please don’t yell at me.” In that minute that had passed, the participant had calmed down and was visibly upset for yelling at the facilitator.
She apologised profusely and the facilitator then proceeded to work through the misunderstanding that had occurred, which got resolved quite quickly.
By choosing to remain calm, the facilitator did not aggravate the situation, nor did he try to cause the participant feel any worse than she already was feeling.
5 Things You Can Do to Remain Calm When Dealing With a Difficult Person
- Allow the person have their say. Interrupting or dismissing what the person is saying can make the situation worse. It’s better to let the person complete saying what they need to before we respond back, if we choose to. Sometimes, not saying anything back can be the best response. By letting them have their say, we can better understand their perspective.
- Have a clear outcome. In any interaction, unless we’re clear on the outcome we want, it can easily lead to confusion and frustration. When someone is frustrated or coming across as being difficult, chances are they are not getting something they want or need. By being clear on what we want, we can also help them get the outcome they want.
- Demonstrate the behaviour you’d like to see. It’s important we don’t allow ourselves to get drawn into another person’s drama. By being able to listen without judgment and staying calm, we will be sending a message to other person that we are choosing to behave differently. Most times, the other person will know they need to adjust their behaviour.
- Set healthy boundaries. Oftentimes, people behave a certain way when they around us because we allow it. When we are willing to set boundaries, people will adjust their behaviours. Boundaries may include letting a person being difficult know what’s an acceptable or unacceptable way to communicate with us.
- Trust your instincts. Most times, we’ll know how to respond when we’re in an uncomfortable situation. We have to trust and be confident that how we deal with a situation will work out for the best. It’s also important to know when to trust our instincts and when to resist the temptation to react to someone.
People are not normally difficult because they want to. Most times, they want an outcome and their way of reaching that outcome may not be in alignment with how we would go about it. Being able to accept different points of view without judgment will help us be calm, composed and confident should we ever find ourselves in a situation where someone else is being difficult.
Action Step: Next time you find yourself in a situation with another person that’s unpleasant for you, apply these ideas so that both of you can reach an agreeable outcome.
Question: What is something else we can do when dealing with difficult people?